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Juniata Volleyball Becomes Just Second Team To Repeat As Molten Champion

(Posted April 16, 2005)

Nate Ocasio was named the Tournament Most Valuable Player as Juniata claimed its second-consecutive Molten Division III Championship.

Hoboken, N.J. ? The Juniata College men?s volleyball team overcame a raucous crowd and a determined Carthage College team to earn its second-consecutive Molten Division III National Championship with a 3-1 victory in Hoboken, N.J. Saturday night. The Molten title was the third overall for Juniata, and the victory improved the Eagles to 19-7 on the year. Carthage, which was making its first-ever appearance in the Molten Championship match, fell to 17-9 on the season. Juniata captured the match by game scored of 30-23, 26-30, 30-22 and 30-24.

Sophomore opposite Nate Ocasio (Northeastern/Manchester) was named the tournament Most Valuable Player as he recorded a team-best 20 kills, and the Eagles placed three others on the All-Tournament Team. Senior setter Rick Ziegler (Northeastern/Manchester), junior libero Tim Cole (Pennsbury/Yardley) and junior middle Cordt Withum (Penn Manor/Holtwood) all earned the honor. Carthage?s Shane Olson claimed a spot on the team, along with Stevens Tech?s Chris Bock, and Drew Lewandowski of Medaille. Juniata, which has held the top spot in the AVCA/CSTV Division III Top-15 poll all season, improved its record to 11-0 against Division III opponents in 2005.

?Carthage really played a very strong match, but in the end I think we were the more consistent team, and that?s what made the difference,? Juniata Head Coach Ken Shibuya stated. ?I told them from the start that we?ve seen everything over the past couple of years, and that our experience is what would win out?and I think that?s what happened. We also really showed our depth as we went to the bench and got a great effort from Matt Springer (William Allen/Allentown), and really a wonderful effort from Cordt Withum, who was playing through some injuries. I?m just very proud of our team, they beat an excellent team tonight.?

After pulling out to an early lead in game one, Carthage rode the strong service of Rob Koehler to a 5-0 run that put the Redmen in front 9-7. Ocasio then took over, piling up two kills during a 5-0 Juniata run that put the Eagles in front 20-17. Carthage answered with a run of its own, pulling back into a tie at 20. Juniata answered with a kill from Jeremy Barndt (Souderton/Souderton), followed by a Barndt ace and a double block from Withum and Nick Bernardo (Christopher Dock/Lansdale) to take a 24-20 edge. Juniata then pulled away, earning the 20-23 game-one win.

The Redmen were intent on making the contest last at least four games as the rolled out to a 5-2 edge in game two. Carthage would continue to lead, pushing the advantage to as many as six on several occasions, including a 23-17 lead following a double block from Matt Ulmer and Koehler. Juniata pulled within three late in the game after back-to-back kills from Springer and Barndt. Carthage held off the charge, and sealed the 30-26 win on a kill from Pat Koster.

?Game two was really a wake up call for us,? Shibuya stated. ?I think our guys felt like Carthage would back down after we came back on them in game one. But to their credit, Carthage really cleaned up their game, and make us focus more. We changed a few things in our blocking scheme which helped slow them down, but mainly we just started playing harder.?

Game three saw Juniata jump out to an early advantage. A pair of kills from Withum and a block from Ocasio and Barndt put Juniata in front 11-4, and forced a Carthage time out. The Eagles stretched the lead out to nine after an emphatic kill from Bernardo, which he followed up with a serve ace. The Redmen rallied again cutting the lead to 23-18 after a pair of kills from Olson. The Eagles halted the run with an Ocasio kill and a Springer ace, then closed the game with another Ocasio finish.

Carthage pulled to a slim early lead in game four, only to see Juniata inch back in front as a solo block from Withum, and an attack error made the score 12-11 Juniata. Carthage answered by scoring the first four points out of the time out, with a kill from Allen Russo giving the Redmen a 14-12 lead. Carthage maintained that edge beofred Juniata posted a 3-0 run featuring a kills from Springer and Bernardo that put Juniata in front 21-18. After a Koster cut Juniata?s

lead to 23-20, Juniata rolled off a 5-0 spurt sparked by a pair of Ziegler serve aces. Carthage managed one more run, getting two points to stave off Championship point, but Juniata claimed the title, sealing the final point on a kill from Springer.

Along with his match-high 20 kills, Ocasio also led all players with 10 digs while hitting .447. Withum finished with 12 kills and a .647 hitting percentage, while Barndt posted 11 finishes while attacking at a .588 clip. Ziegler passed out 47 assists, while adding a team-high three serve aces. Barndt finished with four blocks to pace the Blue and Gold.

Koster led the Redmen attack with 13 kills. Terrance Bellei and Olson were both also in double figures with 12 and 11 respectively. Ulmer passed out 42 assists on the match, while also bringing up seven digs. Koster and Bellei each finished with three blocks and Ryan Baumgartner led the team with nine digs.

Juniata will continue its season with the EIVA postseason, in which the Eagles will be looking to become the first Division III team to earn a berth in the NCAA Men?s Volleyball Final Four. The schedule and pairings for the postseason have not yet been finalized.

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